Police are breaking into students homes and filling them with 500 balloons – with a burglar printed on them.
Around 2,600 freshers are expected to descend on the city this week to prepare for the start of at the new University term, with many living away from their families for the first time.
But bemused students could soon be coming home to find their living rooms filled with the balloons with “I could have been a burglar” written on them.
The shock tactic will see officers and PCSOs trying doors and pushing the inflatables through half open windows in a bid to teach absent-minded students to lock-up their homes.
It is not the first time the force has used unusual tactics in the Garden Quarter – last year officers filled student homes with bright yellow footprints.
While lighthearted, the messages have proved to be controversial, with some students complaining to the police about the footprints, which snaked around their laptops, TV sets and game consoles.
But police have said that the new tactic – which is just one of the initiatives being run in the area this Freshers’ Week – will help stop students becoming victims of crime.
Next week red-faced officers will be seen blowing up the balloons in the streets, before shoving them through windows and wandering into empty houses to leave the inflatable messages behind.
The students will receive a letter saying the balloons are from the police and that this time they were lucky it wasn’t a burglar.
Sergeant Andy Burrage, who studied at the University of Chester and has lived as a resident in the Garden Quarter, said: “The thought behind this is, if we see a window or a door open, if a balloon can fit through a person could get in.
“In the past we have had an increase in break-ins in the Garden Quarter during this period, because of students arriving with new expensive equipment – the criminals know that.
“It is very easy for people to wander around without being recognised as there are a lot of new faces in the area.”
Last year saw the Garden Quarter policing team celebrate one of it’s most successful and peaceful freshers’ weeks ever, with crime dropping by 2.5% – which could show the unusual tactics are working.
This year the 500 balloons, bought with a grant from Cheshire West and Chester Council, will be teamed with a number of initiatives including increased policing and CCTV patrols in a bid to keep students and residents safe.
“It may sound funny, but there is a very serious message behind it,” added Sgt Burrage.